January 24, 2010

Smoke Bacon or Smoked Bacon or Cold Smoking

This post illustrates smoking hams and bacon. It is primitive process, a little time consuming but very easy to duplicate. I dare say that the smoked meat will be the best you have ever tasted with no chemicals or nitrates and at a mere fraction of a cost of packaged processed meats. The ingredients are two pork legs cut into two inch roasts and the bacon meat or pork belly and brine. The meat should not be frozen.

The brine draws moisture out of the meat and aids in preservation by warding off bacteria. The basic brine ratio is 1 cup salt (coarse salt, no iodine, no additives) and 1 cup sugar (or maple syrup) to 16 cups of water (or 1 gallon). I quadruple this recipe in a large stock pot. I also add a cup of apple cider vinegar but you can also add dry herbs for different flavors. Bring the brine to a boil and let cool overnight.

In a sterile plastic garbage can pour in some brine, then a piece of meat, then brine etc. until the meat is all covered in brine. Use something heavy is make sure the top piece is submerged in the brine. Glass is best, don't use metal or Corelle dishes. Keep the garbage can in a cool spot, heat is your enemy here. As you can see by the picture I put mine in a tub of ice water. Your meat will sit in the brine for a few days, I let mine sit for 7 days. Check for mold on the top piece everyday. The top piece can be removed and cleaned and then the can topped with new brine if necessary. When ready, the meat is taken from the brine and set on the newspaper on the kitchen table to dry overnight. The meat must be dry so the smoke will adhere to it and saturate the meat with flavor.

My smoker is recycled from a old fridge and burns wood chips on an electrical hotplate at the bottom. I use my cherry and apple wood but sometimes buy hickory chips from others for different flavors. We smoke for 48 hours straight. You don't want to cook the meat, only encapsulate it in smoke. Thick smoke is made by smoldering your small branches broken into bits or wood chips by adding a little water. Keep water by the smoker for this reason, and to keep your fire from getting too hot and cooking the meat. Again you don't want this, the fat should not drip from the meat.

Everything I read says that meat processed this way will keep without spoilage in a cool spot but I haven't been brave enough to try that yet! Half the hams are wrapped and frozen whole for celebrations. The rest are baked in the oven, cooled, boned, sliced for sandwiches and put in freezer bags for the freezer. The bacon is put fridge overnight so it will be firm enough to cut with the slicer the next day. The bacons have the rind trimmed and are sliced for freezer bags.

But I don't stop there, oh no, you gotta know I get as much out of this resource and my labor as possible. I boil the ham bones with celery, onions, carrots and bay leaves in a large stock pot for an afternoon. I let cool, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning I scrap off the fat, pick the bones clean and strain off the broth. I put 3 cups on broth in bags for the freezer, to be used to future soups (just add 3 cups of water and grated vegetables and voila soup in 30 minutes, or add grated carrots and dry split peas to be soup in 60 minutes).

Click the pictures for more detail, see the beautiful cherry smoke on that ham!!
Peace for all

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  1. Excellent demonstration of the process! The end result of all that work looks delicious. Thanks for the mini-tutorial and what a wonderful reuse of an appliance, the smoker is huge!

  2. Another great post! We are planning on getting a hog or two this spring or summer.I have a friend who is raising a heritage black hogs,they live on pasture and are very tasty.We would like to raise some too but need to get a place better set up for them first.I drive into the city about every 6 weeks to get things that are nitrate free,and other healthy food I do not have yet on our farm,as my son does not tolerate the additives and preservatives in our modern food very well.I am so looking forward to smoking our own pork!

  3. mmmmmmmmmm, Bacon. My meat people will have bacon and true smoked ham next week at the market. No nitrates, no liquid smoke. I can't wait.

  4. Erin - Thanks for the compliment, I must confess I got the idea of the picture tutorial from your blog! One thing about recycling the fridge is you have to strip off all the plastic, then burn it out (and the racks) to get off any chemical or contaminants.

    Melodie - The pigs you speak of are indeed excellent eating although they have more fat than the average. My sister raised them and we found they weren't as docile as others either. There is a little chapter on raising pigs in the book, it is easier than one would think to raise a pig. The hard part is killing the pig, firstly because it is hard to kill a pig and secondly one gets affectionately attached to a pig raised from piglet. But I sure don't need to tell you about that, billys are just the same. You will like smoking meat, especially if you have been missing deli meats like we were.

    Tree Huggin Momma - smoking meat is the most frugal of all possibilities. The meat can be bought in volume, here we get it for 2.25 a pound. The brine costs less than $1. Even if you have to buy wood chips you can see it is a bargain compared to buying the finished product. Lucky are you who can get no nitrate meat, it is only out of necessity we learned to do this.

    Thanks for stopping by ladies, peace for all

  5. if I had the space, i would attenpt this. great idea for an old fridge. i read that you have to strip it first. was wondering about that.

  6. Yes plastic it can't be used if there is any plastic on it or paint. We were lucky enough to get this one already done. He put it into a fire to burn off all the paint, not so environmental - but - considering the resources to make a new smoker . . . I must tell you once you start smoking you will be hooked. You will have food so rich in flavor as people have never had before because no one hardly smokes anymore and you can impart your own signature flavor. You can buy little smokers for fish or cheese. Peace

  7. The meat can be bought in volume, here we get it for 2.25 a pound. The brine costs less than $1. Even if you have to buy wood chips you can see it is a bargain compared to buying the finished product. Lucky are you who can get no nitrate meat, it is only out of necessity we learned to do this.